previous next

LARISSA or Larisa, or Pelasgis, Thessaly, Greece.

A city of Pelasgiotis on the right bank of the Peneios river, approximately in the center of the E Thessalian plain. Through it ran the major routes from S Greece to Macedonia, and routes across Thessaly and to the Gulf of Pagasai. The city and the plain around it were settled in prehistoric times, and its name must be early, but it is first mentioned in connection with the aristocratic Aleuadai, whose home it was. It flourished during the 5th c. and was a considerable artistic center, but was weakened by party dissensions by the end of the century. It was the leader of the resistance against the tyrants of Pherai, but felt it necessary to call in first Thebes and then Macedon to help. In 344 B.C. Philip II of Macedon directly annexed Thessaly, and from then to 196 B.C. Larissa was under Macedonian control. It was the capital of the post-196 B.C. Roman-organized Thessalian League and flourished during the Republic and Empire. Justinian refortified the city.

Very few visible remains of the ancient city are left in place. The Peneios bends in a rough arc around the N side of the city. A Turkish earth embankment (still visible in places) makes a wide arc around the S side. It is supposed the Turkish wall may lie on the line of the ancient one; if so, the circuit of Larissa (counting the river) would be approximately 7 km. There are no visible remains of the city wall, however. In the NW part of the city, close to the river, is a hill (96 m) which was the ancient acropolis. It was fortified in Byzantine times. No ancient wall is to be seen. The ancient theater, which dates to the later Hellenistic period, was dug into the S side of this hill. The seats are marble, and some have the names of notables of the city carved on them.

East of the acropolis hill, in modern Demeter St., a large, 4th c. B.C. votive stele, dedicated to Poseidon, was discovered in situ in 1955.

The agora of the ancient city was probably located near the center of the modern city, S of the citadel. Here, at the crossing of Roosevelt and Papakyriazis Sts., three large Doric poros column drums, two pieces of triglyph, and other architectural fragments were discovered recently. In the area were a row of statue bases and immediately W of them a massive 4th-3d c. B.C. foundation, which has been identified as some building of the agora, or possibly the Temple of Apollo Kerdoios, which is known to have been in the lower city. Near this were some Late Roman or Early Christian foundations. In this general area, in 1910, Arvanitopoullos discovered a few curved seats and a foundation which he ascribed to an odeion and dated to the 4th c. B.C. Stählin suggested it might have been a bouleuterion. What appear to be remains of a Classical temple lie just N of the Metropolis cathedral, N of the E end of the bridge which leads across the river to the W. Part of an Athena head and other statues of the Roman period have been found here.

Ca. 5 km S of the city at Palaiochori Larissis or Siïti, a Hellenistic underground vaulted chamber tomb has been excavated. At Kioski, across the river, a short way along the road leading to ancient Argura, a tomb containing two silver skyphoi was discovered. Hellenistic graves (terracotta comic masks) and a head of Dionysos were discovered at the airport SE of the city.

Numerous small finds, sculptures (6th c. B.C. through Roman), inscriptions giving a good deal of information about the ancient city, etc., have been found in Larissa and its vicinity. These, and objects from the Nome of Larissa are mainly housed in the local museum, a restored mosque E of the city center. Some are in the Volo Museum.


A. S. Arvanitopoullos, ArchEph (1909) 24-44I; id., Praktika (1910) 174f; (1920) 26f; F. Stählin, Das Hellenische Thessalien (1924) 94-99PI; id., RE (1924) s.v. Larisa 3 (Larisa Pelasgis)P; Y. Béquignon, Mel. Oct. Navarre (1935) 1-10; N. I. Giannopoulos, ArchEph (1945-47) chron. 16f; T. D. Axenidis, πελασγὶς Δάρισα I, II (1947); N. M. Verdelis, Praktika (1955) 147-50I; id., Thessalika (1958) 28-38I; BCH 80 (1956) 308fI; H. Biesantz, AA (1959) 90-108I; D. Theocharis, Deltion 16 (1960) chron. 174f, 184fI; 20 (1965) chron. 316f; 21 (1966) chron. 254; G. Chourmouziadis, ArchAnalekta 2 (1969) 167-69I.


hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: